Professional Cookery alumnus through to Graduate Awards final

June 2018

A former UCB Professional Cookery student is one of just 10 young chefs to make it through to the finals of a competition designed to test key skills since leaving college.

Ben Cowley, who graduated in 2016 and now works at Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant in Edgbaston under another UCB alumni, Luke Tipping, has won the chance to compete in the final exam of the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards on August 21.  

From 60 entrants, Ben was one of 24 chefs chosen to cook in the London or Sheffield heats of the competition held on May 23. Impressing the judges, he has now been invited to sit the final, formal paper exam along with a series of butchery and fishmongery tasks.

He will then have to cook his own dish using ingredients from a mystery basket of ingredients and a classic dessert.

Ben said: “It is a great pleasure to be able to compete in the final. I will just try to keep it simple, and allow the ingredients on the day to do the talking. The key is in a good sauce, it makes or breaks a dish.”

The Graduate Awards were founded in 2002 by Craft Guild of Chefs’ vice-president Steve Munkley. The kitchen graduate examination, which sits alongside a pastry category that has five finalists, is for chefs aged 23 and under to test and improve the skills learnt at college and in their early careers.

At the final exam, only chefs who achieve a pass mark of 85% or higher enter the Graduate Awards Hall of Fame. The Highest Achiever will automatically be seeded into next year’s Young National Chef of the Year final, with all graduate achievers being offered a place in the semi-finals in June 2019.

Before the final exam, the chefs will have the opportunity to practise at a two-day mentor experience at Cadbury Court in July.

Steve Munkley said: “It was a tough exam, but with some excellent results. The skills tests were especially pleasing as you could see the chefs had really gone out of their way to practice, which is such an important element of the Graduate Awards.

“All the chefs finished on time, showing the judges they had good organisational skills, which is always great to see. We are in for an exciting final and I’m hopeful we will see a good number of candidates achieve the pass mark again this year.”

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